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Does a child’s preference hold weight in custody cases?

On Behalf of | Apr 28, 2023 | Child Custody And Support

In divorce cases, parents settle custody arrangements and parenting time schedules on their own or with the court’s help. Most often than not, children remain on the sidelines until the adults settle on an agreement. But is it possible for children to voice out their opinion in establishing parenting plans? Will the courts acknowledge them?

Yes, but it is not the only factor

While a child’s preference may affect a judge’s decision, it will not be the primary and only consideration. When family courts decide on parenting plans and time-sharing schedules, they look into various factors, such as each parent’s overall health and ability to provide and care and the child’s home, school and community ties. The courts must decide on what is best for the child’s well-being.

A child’s age plays a significant role

Florida does not set a particular age for when courts consider a child’s preference in custody cases. However, family courts still have to consider the child’s intelligence, maturity and experience with each parent before accepting their preference as a factor. A child needs to understand the consequences of their decision.

This is why courts usually consider the opinions of children ages at least 11 to 13, acknowledging that this is the appropriate age set when a child can understand their decision and its effects. But at the end of the day, it will depend on a judge-by-judge basis.

Look for signs of parental alienation

Courts must be careful when considering a child’s preference to ensure it is not a sign of parental alienation syndrome. Parental alienation is when one parent manipulates a child into hating, fearing or rejecting the other parent, creating a rift in the child and targeted parent’s relationship. This is why courts must consider all factors and not rely solely on the child’s preference.

Divorce is a tough process. When it is time to discuss parenting plans and time-sharing arrangements, it could get emotional and complex. Sometimes, opening the floor for a child to voice their preference could make the decision process easy for parents.